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Our teenage son avoids his studies and has an excuse for not doing them. He will not commit to any important task and when he does, it is never to his best ability. What can we do?

These behavioural traits you are seeing in your son are not uncommon. In fact, teenage study avoidance or the inability to commit fully to a task is something I get asked to work on regularly. All too often it’s coupled with a general lack of resilience and a willingness to give up far too easily.

Being a teenager is a complicated and tricky time in life. It is a time that throws up challenges for parents too, often caused by the conflict between what the child wants to do and what the parents know they need to do. Parents walk a tightrope; setting boundaries and expectations whilst at the same time trying to provide a loving and supportive emotional environment. It’s a real balancing act that’s tricky to get right!

So why do teens often believe everything is so hard for them? Maybe it’s because they’ve had everything done for them their whole lives. You’ve done your utmost; you strive to give them the life you perhaps didn’t have. Therefore, they have learned not to be resourceful or focused because they are utterly dependent on you, their parents. Unfortunately, in some cases this learned dependency can be serious and it can lead to unhealthy negative emotions emerging like study avoidance and wayward conduct.

The positive news however, is that this belief system he holds is completely reversible. I suggest speaking opening and honestly to him about his life, future and dreams. The keyword here is ‘his’. It’s vital for him to see himself as an adult having to stand on his own two feet. You could introduce life-skill lessons where he could work for reward. Some professional coaching or specialized mentoring could benefit him and re-energise his ambition or send him in a new direction.

Above all, it’s worth thinking about how you as parents might also need to change your own approach. Firm but fair is a good mantra when it comes to being the ‘parent guide’ he needs to help him make the right choices for his future.